The 30th June sees a very special release for DEMAIN – SSS!74 is by resident cover artist/brander, very much part of the DEMAIN family as well as being an award winning writer in his own right: Adrian Baldwin! His Short Sharp Shocks! is called ‘Forty Seven’. The book will be published on the 30th June (cover as always by Adrian) and is available now for pre-sales. Before Dean headed to Cannes for the film festival and Adrian went to Chillercon in Scarborough, they sat down and talked!
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to have you here Adrian, in slightly different circumstances than usual. Okay, let’s go for it: first question, please tell us a little about yourself and why/how you become a writer in the first place.
ADRIAN BALDWIN: Sure, and thanks for having me. I am Adrian Baldwin, an author and designer from Manchester who now lives and works in Wales. (Yep, I moved from rainy Manchester to rainy Wales.) I write dark comedy novels, short stories and screenplays for grown-ups. I have always enjoyed quirky, surreal, and unusual comedy. For someone who grew up reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and watching Monty Python perhaps it was inevitable. In the 90s I wrote for several tv comedians and sketch shows; my most famous sketch is The Predictable Lighthouse Keepers which was brilliantly performed by Smith & Jones. (Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t seen it.) I later became a fiction writer as I had somehow, over the years, accumulated several strange stories in my head and one day I decided I needed to get them all out on paper or they’d be forever rattling around in my brain.
DP: I remember that sketch very well and very funny it was too so well done and thanks for that. Would you say your background had an influence on you becoming/being a writer?
AB: I was a very odd child looking back; I didn’t really read age-appropriate books - I was more interested in Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Philip K. Dick, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and believe it or not, I spent a lot of time reading the Oxford English dictionary - one of those mammoth editions in two volumes! That’s right, I was a nerdy kid.
DP: Some great authors there…what about horror?
AB: As a child I was lucky enough to have a small portable TV in my bedroom, and as I’ve always had a problem falling asleep, I got into the habit of watching The Midnight Movie, which was nearly always a classic Hammer Horror or such – so yeah, I was aware of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price at an early age. I also remember being very fond of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and The Invaders.
DP: Yeah, they were classic weren’t they…I seem to remember as a kid there were the infamous ‘red triangle’ films on Channel Four which were violent/scary (and probably a little sexy) and had a massive impact…shame we don’t get those evenings anymore. Anyway, your Short Sharp Shocks!
AB: It’s the tale of Colin Hackett, a second-rate indie Horror writer with an unstable personality, a terrible dark secret, and deep-rooted anger issues. He is extremely short-sighted, considerably overweight, an incurable hoarder and is an unsociable loner. It’s a roasting hot day, his noisy neighbours are at it again, he’s struggling to write his latest story, and he’s growing more and more frustrated!
DP: It’s a great tale. Did you have to do much research?
AB: I always do thorough research on any story I write, when required, but to be honest this one didn’t need any research at all; not that I can recall. But Colin Hackett isn’t me, just so we’re clear.
DP: I hope not! Was the story easy to write?
AB: No, for some reason this is one of the hardest short stories I’ve ever written. The version in SSS!74 was my third go at pushing Colin and his story to a point where I am, now, finally happy with the results.
DP: And so you should be. Let’s talk about your successes…
AB: STANLEY MCCLOUD MUST DIE! is the most popular story with my readers and I can understand why. A story of an inveterate gambler who isn’t given long to live places a massive bet that he will reach his next birthday; unfortunately for Stan he picks an unscrupulous bookie who decides to try and bump him off with a range of ever-so-slightly fatal high-odds proposition bets.
I have interest from a director who wants to make SMMD into a film, and he has already managed to get the script I wrote for it into the hands of the actor I want to play Stan, and the actor has said yes! So, fingers crossed and watch this space.
DP: Looking forward to seeing how that turns out – well done. Who are your influences?
AB: I guess all books and authors have some influence on writers to some degree or other. I know for sure that I’ve been influenced by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, Alan Sillitoe, Bruce Robinson, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Irvine Welsh, Stephen King, Robert Rankin and Jasper Fforde; and I’m certain there must be many others.
DP: I’m sure – let’s pause for a moment, what does ‘horror’ mean to you?
AB: To me, Horror means disturbing the reader/viewer, and I like my Horror with a dose of Dark Comedy thrown in – I feel if you can disturb someone and make them laugh at the same time, it’s even more disturbing in some ways. If any of my readers ever think: Oh my God, why am I laughing, I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but I am – then I feel I’ve succeeded.
DP: I believe you have! What do you think readers look for in horror books?
AB: I’m sure it varies from reader to reader, but I guess at the end of the day, or night, it’s the same for any work of fiction: it’s about escapism and being entertained for a wee while. And in the case of dark comedies, having a few laughs along the way. I tend to think of Dark Comedy as Horror’s weird cousin.
DP: And would you say that horror is affected by world events?
AB: As I’m not strictly a horror writer but more a dark comedy writer who occasionally dabbles in the horror genre, I would say that world events must surely creep into a whole range of genres – at least sometimes. Thinking about my own stories I can only recall one offhand and that was in Stanley McCloud Must Die! – the story was set in 2010 during The Banking Crisis with its Credit Crunch, Global Financial Meltdown, Double-Dip Recession, and so-called ‘Austerity Measures’.
DP: With all the BS that’s been happening in the world recently it’ll be interesting to see how writers weave that in to their work…so, is there a horror (or dark comedy) book/film coming out soon that you’re looking forward to?
AB: I have yet to read Japer Fforde’s latest book, THE CONSTANT RABBIT, so that is a story I am really looking forward to reading. To be honest, I am often disappointed with new films, so I tend to revisit a lot of old favourites. I am a big fan of so-called kitchen-sink movies from the 60s. I also like sleazy novels from the 50s/60s and have several newly acquired old titles to read, partly for a new project I’m aiming to pen at some point in the not-too-distant future.
[HERE, DEAN EXITS THE INTERVIEW AND IS PICKED UP BY HIS ASSISTANT!]
ASSISTANT: Hi Adrian, can you let us know about a writer (or director!) who interests you…
AB: Of course! I am currently very interested in the work of writer/director Dean M. Drinkel – not least because he has expressed a keen interest in directing a series called DEVIL’S ACRE – the pilot of which I wrote quite recently (as a book and a screenplay). I’ll be working closely with Dean on the second episode and then the aim is to approach Netflix or Amazon. It’s about Victorians vs ‘Aliens’ vs Zombies – what’s not to like! So, fingers crossed!
ASSISTANT: Yes, Dean was showing me his notes for Episode 2, the series looks very interesting indeed. Thank you.
[THE ASSISTANT EXITS, DEAN RETURNS]
DP: Is the horror genre dead?
AB: Again, I am more Dark Comedy than Horror, but my understanding is that Horror, and perhaps Dark Comedy too, is, if anything, increasing in popularity. Perhaps people have been reading more than usual recently what with having to be at home more due to Covid. If ever there was a time when folks needed entertainment it is surely now.
DP: That’s so true – first there was Brexit, then Covid, then Ukraine…what a crappy time to be alive in all honesty…anyway, are you afraid of anything?
AB: I am afraid of heights and yes, it has made an appearance in one of my novels. I also dislike clowns – I’m not afraid of them, just don’t like them – and I believe a clown or clowns have appeared in two of my stories to date: my novel BARNACLE BRAT and my short story ‘PIED!’ If you love, hate or dislike clowns maybe check them out.
DP: I will! Creatively Adrian is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet?
AB: Other than completing my DEVIL’S ACRE series, I would like to put out a series of 50s/60s-inspired trashy sleaze titles, under the banner Bawdy Books, perhaps working with other writers – and probably under assumed pen-names – just like they did back in the day.
DP: Love that idea! Count me in. So I’m guessing with everything you’ve got going on that writing is a long term career for you?
AB: I will keep on writing until it ceases to be fun for me or until I totally run out of ideas. Hopefully, that’s a way off yet. I also design book and magazine covers so that helps provide some variety to my days.
DP: I know we’re (hopefully!) past the lockdown now, but what was your routine…
AB: As a total hermit who hardly ever leaves the house – unless I really need or want to for some reason – nothing much has changed for me personally. My routine is basically to work late mornings and afternoons, either writing or designing, then game, read or watch movies in the evening; it’s quite a life and I heartily recommend it.
DP: Sounds sublime. Okay, two more fun ones: Do you interact a lot with your readers (or writers who have influenced you)? Any stories you can tell us?
AB: I interact as much as I possibly can with my readers and fellow indie authors – it’s great to have that social support network. Funny stories? From my interactions with readers and other writers? I wish I did. Then I might have more raw material to draw on and to shape into a narrative! So, no, not really. There are lots of real happenings in my own life that have made their way into my stories, does that count? Like the time when my dad rushed me to get in the car for school and when he dropped me off, I quickly realised that I was wearing my fluffy slippers! I got some terrible stick that day; they can be such cruel bullies, teachers!
DP: HAHA, and okay, final one: what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
That I really do take my research very seriously. If they had checked my Google searches over the years, they could easily have seen things like: How long does it take a frozen torso to defrost at room temperature? How much does a severed human head weigh? Would it float? - And though my descriptions may seem extremely realistic in my books, I have never killed a clown or a hooker in real life. Honest.
DP: And we believe you! Almost…
Thank you Adrian for your time, all the best with ‘Forty Seven’.
If you’d like to connect with Adrian direct:
Dean M. Drinkel